Alto saxophonist Hal McIntyre worked with several local bands in his native Connecticut before forming his own eight-piece outfit in 1935. In 1937, McIntyre was hired as a temporary replacement in Benny Goodman’s orchestra. Though the job lasted for only ten days, he caught the ear of Glenn Miller, who was busy organizing a new band. McIntyre became the first musician hired for Miller’s group only to see it break up a few months later due to financial problems. When Miller made another attempt in 1938, McIntyre signed on again. This time Miller succeeded, and McIntyre became an integral part of his now famous sound.
In late 1941, Miller convinced McIntyre to form his own group, offering to back it financially. The orchestra debuted that same year at the Glen Island Casino. Miller supplied arrangements from his own book at first, but McIntyre vowed not to copy the Miller sound. He succeeded in developing his own style, and the orchestra quickly became popular, billing itself as “The Band That America Loves.” 1945 proved their banner year when they played at President Roosevelt’s birthday ball and later toured Europe for the USO.
Original vocalists for the orchestra were Penny Parker and Walter Eberle, brother to Ray and Bob. McIntyre went through multiple male singers in the band’s early days. Carl Denny had replaced Eberle by January 1942, remaining until at least March. Terry Allen then held the spot in mid-1942 before he fell victim to the draft. Jerry Stuart was vocalist in July 1942. Jack Lathrop also sang that year. Al Nobel had joined by early 1943 and remained through at least November 1944. Jimmie Allen was male vocalist in early 1945. Sax player Johnny Turnbull sang novelty numbers.
Parker remained through April 1942. Frances Gaynor then took over, staying until at least June. The Four Lyttle Sisters replaced Gaynor, leaving in February 1943 when Helen Ward, returning to active band singing, joined the orchestra. Ward left in October, at which time Anita Boyer temporarily took over as female vocalist until McIntyre hired Gloria Van. Van became pregnant and left the band in April 1944. Lois Lane briefly replaced her but was gone two weeks later in favor of Ruth Gaylor, who came out of retirement when her husband had been sent overseas as part of the Army Medical Corps. Gaylor stayed longer than any other female vocalist, appearing with the band in three films. She put in her notice to leave McIntyre in October 1945 when her husband was scheduled to return home from the war, but when he contracted yellow fever and had to stay abroad, she remained with the band.
The orchestra initially recorded on Victor, however they temporarily switched to Victor subsidiary Bluebird in 1944 during the American Federation of Musician’s recording ban. Bluebird had settled with the AFM early and was allowed to begin recording again. When the ban was finally lifted for all labels in November 1945, McIntyre went back to Victor.
In late 1945, McIntyre took his orchestra overseas on a USO sponsored tour. He was forced to quickly hire several new musicians when some of his men failed to meet the requirements for the trip. This change in personnel caused his sound to briefly suffer, though he managed to get the band into shape again by the time they returned to the States.
McIntyre also had trouble finding a male vocalist who could qualify for the tour after Jimmy Allen failed. Don Darcy briefly became part of the band, but he too didn’t make the cut. Jimmy Cook then took the spot before Frankie Lester finally passed. Gaylor also traveled to Europe with the band during the tour.
Upon return to the States, McIntyre’s band was placed on a touring bill with Georgia Gibbs as headliner. During a show at the Earle in Philadelphia, a situation arose between Gaylor and Gibbs. Gaylor’s only song on the tour was “I’m Gonna Love That Guy.” Gibbs also decided to sing the same song, which meant that Gaylor, who had no time to prepare other arrangements, had to sit out the show, which also meant not getting paid. According to Gaylor, Gibbs had agreed not to do the song during the tour’s show in New York but then suddenly changed her mind in Philadelphia. McIntyre’s band reacted by refusing to play the song for Gibbs during rehearsal. Gibbs, who said she didn’t recall ever agreeing not to do the number, left the tour at the end of the Philadelphia engagement. She claims that booking agent William Morris, who handled both her and the band, had okayed their songlists. The incident made the trade press and the gossip columns.
Gaylor left McIntyre and retired from singing again in January 1946 when her husband finally returned home from overseas. McIntyre initially replaced her with a two-man, two-woman vocal quartet. Nancy Reed was vocalist by May 1946, however, remaining until at least late 1947. Betty Norton then took over. Lester remained as male vocalist through at least the end of 1950.
In 1946, Victor dropped the orchestra, and McIntyre signed with the independent Cosmo label before switching to MGM Records in 1947. The band then found itself without a recording contract from 1948 to 1952. They signed with Decca that year, where they most notably collaborated on the Mills Brothers 1952 hit “Glow Worm.”
Hal McIntyre died tragically in a house fire in 1959. In his early years, he had also played clarinet but stuck almost exclusively to saxophone while leading his orchestra.
Yes, there really was singer in the 1940s named Lois Lane. She appears in the records starting around 1944, six years after the Superman character made her first appearance. Down Beat postulated that she had previously been known as Helen Humphrey and had sung with Stan Kenton under that name. Alliterative names were popular among singers and other celebrities. ↩︎